For the Fennel Agrodolce
- Put all ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Bring mixture to a simmer and reduce it until it’s a jam consistency.
- Remove the star anise and let the sauce cool.
- Trim asparagus by breaking off the woody end and peeling away outer layer of skin.
- Soak asparagus in an ice bath for about 20 minutes (revitalizes the cells, rehydrates it, helps set the color, and improves texture of the final product).
- Put a big pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil, and salt it so it tastes like the sea.
- Add your asparagus a few at a time, keeping it at a rolling boil (you want the convection).
- Cook anywhere from 60 seconds to 2 minutes (until al dente—has a bite to the tooth).
- Shock them right back into another ice bath to cool them down and stop the cooking.
- Serve warm or chilled with fennel on top; garnish with chives.
Note: The fennel topping can be made a few days ahead and chilled.